Use your head and become a better cricketer (part 2) | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Use your head and become a better cricketer (part 2)

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This article is part two of a series from Laurie Ward of the Complete Cricketer Academy. To go to part one click here.

In the last article we looked at head position in bowling and fielding. Today we look at head position in batting.

Arguably the most important area of the game to be aware of your head positioning and balance is batting.

Your set-up, stance and any pre-delivery movements must be honed to have your head perfectly still, positioned correctly and aligned according to your dominant eye at the point of release by the bowler.


Your head should be in a “neutral” position, not overbalanced to either side. It should be slightly forward in your stance, over your front foot. This small distance can make a big difference in the reading of line and length as it gains vital time when moving forward to a ball or reading earlier when to rock back to the short ball. All batsmen want to avoid half-movements, particularly at the start of their innings, and to be positive, forward or back.


There are many variations in stance, depending mainly on the batsman’s own comfort and according to which is his/her dominant eye.

  • Neutral or parallel stance: Feet set-up aligned along the batsman’s line of guard. Fairly neutral, with a right-hand batter’s left eye being more forward towards the bowler. This is the old textbook stance, but the batsman should preferably open this out, moving his front foot slightly toward leg to allow a more open position and the “back” eye to become more open and to have clearer sight of the ball upon release.
  • Open stance: A more exaggerated set-up with the front foot moved further to leg and the eyes squarer on to the bowler. Peter Willey, later on in his career, adopted this stance against the Windies speed quartet to assist with picking up the ball as early as possible. This stance, and positioning of the feet make it more difficult to get across to play on the front foot on the off side, but Willey did not have too many balls in his half against the likes of Marshall, Holding, Roberts and Croft!
  • Closed stance: If you are looking for your head and eyes to be level, still and balanced at delivery then avoid this set-up at all costs. With your front foot further around to the off side than your back foot, your shoulders, head and eyes are more aligned to mid-off. To get a better view of release a batsman tends to twist at the hip to align his eyes forward, which in turn throws more weight on to the front leg, making quick, balanced footwork almost impossible and a tendency therefore for the batsman to play around his pad.
The Shots

When playing forward-defensively or in attacking strokes the head plays a big part in getting the timing and balance right to play the ball correctly.

In front foot shots, the head and shoulders dip and align with the path of the ball. The head and shoulder lead the forward movement with the front leg following to set the base for the controlled downswing, into impact “under” or in line with the eyes. The head should remain down throughout the stroke to maintain the eyes’ focus on the ball as long as possible and the weight and momentum staying down in the shot.

(Science proves that the batsman does not watch the ball all the way through the air onto the bat though)

In playing shots to leg, the head should remain neutral or balance slightly to the leg side. If a batsman topples” to off (a common error) he is less likely to make contact with the ball.

Back foot shots also require good balance and positioning of the head. If your head’s centre of gravity is backwards, the more likely it is that the shot will go airborne.

With back foot drives and defence, the head should be as close to the line of the ball as possible, to play the ball “under the eyes” with the head slightly forward.

The pull shot requires the head to be in line with the contact point with the ball, ideally taken at full extension of the arms in front of the eyes. Although not always possible (or realistic) against extreme pace, the head’s weight should be slightly forward.

Cut shots require head and shoulder movement towards the impact point, in line with the eyes and with the head’s weight towards off, over the toe of the back leg, creating a balanced and powerful base for the bat to strike through the line.

To maximize batting performance, the batsman must “use his head” to his advantage. Keeping as still as possible allows him/her to pick up the subconscious cues from the bowler’s run-up and delivery and to allow maximum concentration on the hand/ball/fingers/crease position upon release.

How to determine your dominant eye

How to determine which of your player’s eyes is dominant is an important factor in how a coach approaches working with their game.

There are various methods on how to see which eye is dominant but the simple test below works well with all ages:

  1. Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing away.
  2. Bring your hands together, forming a small hole by crossing the thumbs and fore fingers.
  3. Choose a small object about 15-20 feet away from you. With both eyes open, focus on the object as you look through the small hole.
  4. Close one eye and then the other. When you close one eye, the object will be stationary. When you close the other eye, the object should disappear from the hole or jump to one side.
  5. If the object does not move when you cover one eye, then that eye is dominant. The eye that sees the object and does not move is the dominant eye.
  6. From an observers (coach’s) perspective, if you look through the hole back at the player, you will see their dominant eye lined up with the hole.

image credit: UK Pictures


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"Back foot shots also require good balance and positioning of the head. If your head’s centre of gravity is backwards, the more likely it is that the shot will go airborne."

Doesn't Ricky Ponting do this with his full shot?

Dominant eye & batting stance: Having missed another straight on eat the weekend with no more than a defensive prod I'm starting to wonder if I'm sufffering with poor eyesight. Now my eys aren't great & my right eye is very dominant so as a right handed batsmen does anyone have any suggestions about stance & guards that could help? I can't be the only one to suffer from this plague on my averages!

The list of possibilities are huge. You may be tipping over, closed off, looking too much to the off side, not watching the ball, not making a fast enough shot selection, not aligning your body and bat together through the shot...

My point is there is no way to fix the problem until you know what it is. At the moment we have a symptom but no underlying cause. Can you give any more clues?

Bother I meant 'pull shot'. He seems to just fall backwards and to his right...

I would have to take another look but as I remember his balance is near on perfect.

Yeah I'm sure he's technically correct. Could be that on closer examination he just swivels without going backwards. I actually thought back foot shots like the pull and hook meant weight (and thus head) went backwards, but now i think i see the difference. Especially as some international players look like they pull off the front foot, almost?

No i'm sure there are a number of reasons why I miss that little red ball so often. My comment on the 'dominant eye' was my optician is an avid cricketer himself and was talking about adopting a 'Chanderpaul-esque' batting stance so that the dominant eye has far more control. I'll give it a try at the weekend....can't do any worse!

Have you never had any success with your current stance at all?

Well there have been moments when it's been good & i've hit the odd fifty (over 15 years of playing the game!) But I think this is down to a lot of luck on my part & as a captain of a team that struggles to bat out 40 overs I need to improve my consistency so I can help the team average. There have been a lot more ducks than double figure scores!

Any basic ground rules that I should have a look at to see if I'm missing something obvious?

The trick is to focus on the tactical side rather than your stance or technique. Know what your good shots are and be ready to use them, cut out the shots you don't play too well. What modern coaches might call the percentage game. After that it's the old cliché of block the good ball and hit the bad ball.

please answer this.I was playin 3 down in the side and I was a bit quick and got coach sent me to play on I want to know how to open in battin

In the batting stance my chin is usually between my feet rather then over the front foot .is that ok or should it be ideally over the front foot for better balance .?
To do that won't I need to rotate my body slightly from a side on position to face the bowlers I put my bat behind my back toe ?

just try to leave the ball which is outside off stump is animportant skill ....and make ball old so there will be no or less swing and u can play effeciently